Not So Eventful

I really don't like shooting events. It has nothing to do with them being a lot of work though. Lord knows I could use the exercise. It's just that it's harder to make a connection with folks when shooting event. That consequently affects the individual shots when you try to single out people at the function. Although the candids are always fun because you can often catch people being themselves when they think no one is really watching.

The exceptions I always make are when I'm shooting an event for friends and/or family.  In this instance, doing the one for Grandma's 90th Birthday Celebration was a no-brainer. I always wished I had known now back when I did the one for Popoo's surprise party so he could have had the same quality images. At least I do still have video from that evening and in some ways, that's even better.

At any rate, this event could not have gone off any better. It was not a surprise Grandma made it clear she didn't want that. However, I think she was somewhat surprised at the turnout. And there's no way she knew what kind words everyone would share as they spoke on their amazing memories with her.  The smile on her face during all that was priceless.

It was a bittersweet moment for all of us in more ways than one. Grandma was already showing signs of illness that many of us weren't accustomed to seeing. She had always been such a powerful matriarch in both spirit and physical stature that we expected it to last for years to come. We all know that God always has other plans that we may not be aware of though. 

Grandma's health would go up and down in the days and weeks following her celebration. She tried to hold on for us as long as she could until it just became too much. I, for one, found myself selfishly wishing she was able to stay with us even longer. However, I certainly didn't want it to be in a condition where it was a struggle to remain here.  So her being able to finally be at peace was a greater reward than having more time with her.

At 90-years-young, Grandma had the chance to live a very full life that many folks would be envious of. Not only that, but she was able to experience some of the most pivotal moments in our country's history while she was still old enough to appreciate them.  That's why conversations with her were always so enamoring. As much as I will miss those, I will always treasure the knowledge I gained from her during those talks.

See these are the type of connections I look for when shooting events. Of course it helps when they are paying functions, but more than anything, if the memories are special for me too then that's something on which you cannot put a price-tag. I will always look back at these images from Grandma's 90th birthday celebration and remember how special, loved and appreciated we were able to make Grandma feel.  She may be gone, but she will be with us forever...

Getting Off Track

The title could apply to the fact that I've been MIA for so long with these posts.  Has it really been over three months??  All my bad there.  Totally inexcusable.  I had a goal to get these out at the minimum of once a month.  Actually, originally I had planned to do one with each shoot, but I realized that was a bit to ambitious.  Starting in the new year, I may adopt that philosophy like I intended. For now, I will probably just have to make up for lost time.

One thing the long gap in posts allowed me to do was to come up with more material and/or observations to post about.  Some I may have to filter a bit and won't address so as not to offend. I do like controversy, just not when it's bad for business.  Heck, this post alone may ruffle some feathers; however, it's still a topic that I feel passionate about so I feel compelled to speak on it.

The pic you see here was the last time I ever did a shoot on railroad tracks.  It was by design also. You see..when I first started shooting, I knew I wanted to do all the type of shoots that I had admired in the past. One of the trends at the time was the shooting on railroad tracks. I thought that would be so cool to do one as well. So I got my Frat Theotto and his then-girlfriend (now wife) Rikkia to help out and we made this happen.  I did like the way it came out at the time (given my limited knowledge of composition, editing, framing, etc.).  After this, I was good with raillroad tracks even before there would be issues in the photography world surrounding the use of them.

I would find out later that apparently it is illegal to shoot on railroad tracks in the first place. Something about how they are technically government and/or federal property so it's trespassing? Not that that matters a great deal. Anyone that has been shooting a while knows you will gladly trespass a time or two to get some good shots. I call it guerrilla photography.  As long as the photographer and/or his subjects aren't injured then it's all good. Which brings me to the next issue that would eventually arise...

Folks are getting killed while they are attempting to take photos on tracks. There have been more than a couple of instances now where the photographer is shooting on live tracks when a train has barreled down on them and the rest is history. I still don't know how it's possible that one could not hear and/or see a large locomotive coming. Are they shooting with loud theme music blaring? Even if the train is to their back, shouldn't the client see it coming and forewarn the photog?  Or maybe they thought it would be a cool shot to get the image of the train as it's right behind the client then they forget to move in time? 

The thing for me is shooting on railroad tracks has been come way to passe.  It's an image that has been played out and overdone by now. I don't understand why photographers are still doing it in the first place. Like anything else, it was a trend that had its moment but its time has now come and gone. I guess this is one of those things where I am in the silent minority though. Because even though I have refused to shoot that concept for the past few years now, I continue to see folks still doing it. And some getting killed in the process.

Do. You.

It just hit me one day while I was watching an old "Martin" episode a while ago.  He had that infamous phrase that he would utter occasionally when trying to be sarcastic:  "Do you!"  It was his way of saying that he may not have agreed with whatever that person was doing, but if they like it, then more power to them.  It occurred to me it could very easily have an even more positive meaning.

I am constantly taking photos of all types of different people from all types of different backgrounds.  They have their own personalities.  Their own interests.  Their own beliefs.  They don't live their lives according to how other people want them to.  They do what makes them happy.

Do. You.

Some people erroneously (and dare I say ignorantly) view it as a question when they see it on one of my photos.  Do you see a question mark anywhere in the statement?  No.  Because quite simply put, it is precisely a statement.  It accompanies each photo where the person is doing just that.  They are merely living out the statement in their own personal way.

It started out as a clever idea for me on just a couple of photos.  However, the more I started applying it to different photos, the more it took on a life of its own.  It became more of a movement.  A movement that will very soon take on some even edgier and different directions.  There are still several ideas that come to mind that would fall under the "Do. You." umbrella so it's not set to end anytime soon.

When I went through the process of creating this new site, I struggled with the idea of whether I should give "Do. You." its own category.  I probably would have if I didn't already have so many other categories.  And since all the others are mainly there to generate sources of income, I omitted my personal endeavors.  What I did instead was give this movement its own Flickr page that you can view here:

You will have to forgive the no-frills look of the current 'Do. You.' page.  It's really just meant to highlight the different photos that have already made it to the movement.  At some point in time I will devote a little more time to spruce it up a bit.  But for now, you may want to visit it from time to time to see what new images have joined the movement.  You never day you could see your very own photo there...



Yay men!

I still remember the day, or to be more technically accurate, the evening that I received that horrible text.  My cousin Earl had been in a very bad motorcycle accident.  Having no brothers of my own (if you discount my 300,000+ Frat worldwide of course), that was like hearing my brother had just been seriously hurt.  I was instantly numb.  And helpless.  Hundreds of miles away and feeling there was nothing I could do.

The soonest I could see him happened to fall on the Kansas City reunion weekend.  By that time, he had been stabilized to the point where he could have visitors on a semi-regular basis.  He was still very heavily medicated though to help his body cope with the constant pain.  That's why he still has no recollection of my time with him in the hospital.  It's too bad because his conversation was down right epic.  Even on pain meds, I would have expected nothing less from Earl.

Fortunately, that was nearly a few months ago and a lot has changed since then.  Earl beat odd after odd as he embarked on his road to recovery.  Those successes landed him in this renown rehab facility in Lincoln, NE known as Madonna's.  Still pretty far from me to see him, but not if I was in Des Moines doing shoots.  So the last time I had something scheduled there, I made sure to set aside an entire day where I could road trip to Lincoln to check on my cousin-brother.

Needless to say, Earl was doing MUCH better than the first time I saw him since the accident.  Back then it was good to just see him coherent.  This time, his personality was fully intact with no medication inhibiting him.  He had Diah and I cracking up the entire time we were there with his stories of his time in the facility.  Best one of all being the 'special' men's section of the chapel choir.  Days later and I still start laughing thinking of how Earl tried to encourage those poor tone-deaf souls.

One of the highlights of the visit was getting to see Tanya.  We missed her somehow while we were in KC.  It felt odd too because it's not often that I see Earl without here so everything seemed right again seeing her at Madonna's.  That's why I just had to capture this image.  It didn't matter that Tanya had expressed they had taken about a thousand pictures already.  I pointed out to her although that may be the case, they hadn't had one done by me.  I promised it would be worth it.  Even she admitted it was one of the best photos of the two of them that they have had in quite a while.  So the entire trip overall was one huge success.



Never thought I would be doing a destination wedding.  Okay...maybe that was very pessimistic of me.  I knew I would at some point.  It's really just the law of averages.  I just didn't figure my first location would be so epic.  I was thinking Florida would be likely at some point.  Possibly southern California.  Maybe even New York.  All spots I wouldn't mind shooting.  Nope.  It was Hawaii.

It all started with the engagement pics I did for Stefy and Sergio. Well if you want to be technical, it began with the first model shoot I did for Stefy.  However, I would definitely say it was the engagement pics that cinched the deal.  They were both so pleased with my work that they insisted I do their wedding.  I was all game for it too.  Then when I found out they were getting hitched in Hawaii, I just assumed all bets were off.  Those wedding packages come with photogs.  That didn't matter.  They still wanted my services.

Keep in mind, I have never been to Hawaii.  I have never even left the continental U.S.  So this was quite the adventure for me.  It didn't even matter that I was going there on business.  I don't care what your profession is, it really doesn't seem like 'work' at all when your locale is Hawaii.  And I quickly realized that 4 days there wasn't enough.

I promised the two of them that I would go above and beyond for their wedding.  That meant more than just the ceremony.  We did bridal and groom photos around the entire island of Kauai.  As long as there was sun light, we were out shooting in it.  I have never been exhausted in my entire life.  But once again, it was a type of exhaustion that I would gladly settle for if given a choice.

The wedding day itself was almost a disaster from my standpoint.  Something that Stefy and Sergio weren't even aware of until now (assuming they read this).  It turned out that I had drained both my regular battery and my back-up battery by the time the wedding day rolled around.  I had gotten so wrapped up in capturing every moment and properly preserving it that I forgot to charge my batteries the night before the ceremony.  As I'm loading up my gear to head to the location, I realize I'm down to about 15 minutes of battery life.  I was sweating like a prostitute in church on Sunday.

Fortunately, the vehicle that we were driving around had a regular three-pronged outlet in it. I charged one battery there while we snapped some of the formals at a lush flower garden.  That only bought me another 30 minutes though.  Then Lady Luck struck again.  We had to take a ferry to the site where the ceremony would be held.  It was approximately a 15-minute ride.  And that ferry had electrical outlets.  I was able to charge both batteries to the point where I bought myself at least another 3-4 hours.  And thanks to my tactical shot selection, they were able to last even longer.  Tragedy averted. 

All in all, I can't even express what an amazing opportunity that Hawaii trip was.  I cannot thank the Belmontes enough for allowing it to happen.  If I never shoot another wedding again (after the one I already have booked a few months from now) then I would have ended on the highest note possible.  I don't think I could ever live in Hawaii even if I had the chance given the high cost of living and being so far from everyone; however, I definitely would not mind visiting often.

Oh Baby

I remember when I first started dabbling with photography I told myself that I wouldn't do baby portraits.  Only because I had seen some bad experiences played out in movies and tv shows.  Plus, I just knew from experience how temperamental babies can be.  However, I cooled on that thought very quickly.  Mainly when I began realize that I would only limit myself by keeping my focus that narrow.

I will never consider myself to be the baby whisperer when it comes to shooting babies.  There's a special talent that one needs in order to catch the perfect infant pic.  I know I don't have that.  I also know I could probably obtain it if I really applied myself.  I just feel that my skillset is better with older subjects and I'm fine with that.

Now I do get lucky from time to time.  Fortunately, I've been able to work with babies/toddlers/kids that seem to like me.  Not so much that I'm their best friend, but just enough that they will do good in front of the camera.  That's all I really care about.  Just want to make sure their parents get some good images. 

The one kid that always gets the premier treatment is my grandson.  I will pull out the camera on a whim and just start snapping him.  It's partly because he's my first grandchild, but mainly because he's just so doggone photogenic.  He really doesn't take a bad picture.  And most of the time, he looks photo ready just being his normal self before I'm even able to get the camera.

So I may not have blogged in a while, but I figured this was a good photo to come back with.  And just to give you a heads up...there's a good chance that if I go into a funk again where I don't blog for a minute, my return may very well be another picture of this cute little fella.

Going Back in Time

It does seem like an appropriate title for Wednesday, doesn't it?  It could be a Wayback Wednesday theme, huh?  Or perhaps I could have waited for tomorrow and just called it Throwback Thursday?  Well ironically enough, it doesn't have anything to do with an archived photo but rather a setting.

There used to be a time when I relied solely on a nice location for my photography.  Back when I had no concept of studio lighting and/or how to use it.  Then again, I really had no concept of how to use outdoor lighting either.  However, I knew that a great location is the key to making an average shoot look great.  Like they always say...location, location, location.

That's why I was beyond pleased to get the opportunity for this latest session.  It was already good enough this was an engagement session.  I always enjoy those.  It's the opportunity to capture two people at one of the happiest moments in their lives.  You can capture natural euphoria that you normally have to coax out of folks.  And to do it all in a vintage setting is even better.

This spot that Stefy and Sergio selected reminded me of Living Histoy Farms back home in Iowa.  It's quite possible that every state has something like it somewhere and I'm just not aware of it.  One of those places where you leave the outside world to go back to a simpler time.  Only  Dallas Heritage Village was one of the best I've seen.  It was like I was on a 30s Hollywood set that spanned 13 acres.

Now granted, you can't do this type of shoot with just anyone anytime.  My boudoir shoots wouldn't quite fit here, for instance.  Your subject has to be in period gear as well to make it really pop.  Then you add a little vintage editing like I've done and it all really comes together. It's quite possible I may have enjoyed the session more than the couple did.


The Eyes Have It

This one isn't so much a tip as much as it is a personal preference to my shooting style.  Every photog will have their own set of guidelines they follow to make sure their work stays consistent.  Sometimes we have to stray for one reason for another, but we will strive to maintain that consistency.  For me, it has to do with a person's eyes.  Well...not really their eyes, but the colored contacts that some folks choose to wear.

For the record, this photo does NOT represent one of those such instances.  Jena is one of my favorite photo subjects who just happens to be blessed with some very photogenic eyes.  There would never be any need for her to wear contacts to alter her eye color.  Unfortunately, some people don't feel the same way about their natural eye color and they choose otherwise.  To each their own, but it really hurts the quality of any professional photos they choose to have done.

You have all heard the saying that the eyes are the keys to the soul, right?  Well that is certainly the case with photography.  A person's eyes can make or break an incredible picture.  All because your eyes are what gives your picture life.  Your emotions come through in what your eyes express.  So when a person has on contacts, the eyes look absolutely dead.

Let's put aside the simple fact that colored contacts very rarely look genuine.  That alone is an obvious reason to avoid having them in a professional shoot.  Then there is the secondary reason (and my personal pet peeve) that contacts don't capture catch lights very well.  If at all.  If you can't emote through your eyes, then a professional photo of your face is pretty much useless.





From the Hip

Every now and then I will impart some of my photography wisdom to all of you.  I have been doing this for a little over five years now (officially) so it's only fair that I pass on some of my knowledge.  Who knows, it might actually help out some folks that are thinking about getting into the field themselves.

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This first tip is about shooting perspective.  Back in the day, they had those older cameras held about waist level then looked in from above to take pictures.  Of course the quality was terrible because they didn't have near the technology we have today.  However, the one thing they did manage to get right was the angle. 

It's crucial that when you are shooting a subject that you always shoot level with their waist.  What this does is assures that you will be maintaining equal proportions with their top half and their bottom half.  It is especially effective when shooting shorter folks.  Even moreso if they may already have insecurities about their height.  That way the image won't come out appearing as though you are looking down on them.  It may be a desired effect some may want to achieve when trying to be artsy, but you don't want that on a standard portrait.

The one drawback to this is that it is hard on the knees.  I find myself constantly kneeling and squatting to get that perfect angle.  But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to get that shot.  At least you do if you're serious about your craft.  It just means I need to get in better shape to maintain some longevity.  Because I'll be doggone if I let the quality of my work suffer.


I can still recall when I was a green photog and first heard this term.  Actually, at the time it was told to me as TFP.  Had no idea what the model was talking about.  So it was immediately clear to her that I was a rookie.  I was okay with that though. . We all have to learn somehow.  I would quickly find out that it meant "Trade For Print".  However, in an a time where so many folks are digital, it's been shortened more recently to TF for simply "Trade For".

TF is a situation when the photographer doesn't charge the model and the model doesn't charge the photographer.  They are making a trade for each other services.  The reason being usually because they are both mutually benefiting one another's portfolio by doing the shoot. 

What some folks fail to realize is it is really only beneficial if it is a mutual trade.  If the model is just starting out, doesn't know what he/she is doing with their look, posing, etc. then it won't really help out the photoog's port a great deal.  Same thing goes the other way around.  Then it's not really a trade.  It's really one party giving the other a handout.  And not to say that doesn't happen because it does.

The whole reason I do TF shoots is for the networking opportunities.  It will often lead to connecting with other clients.  Or sometimes even other opportunities.  Like my most recent TF shoot which now landed me an all expenses paid job for an east coast shoot.  Just more than a little excited about that.  So although TF shoots may not sometimes be cost effective, the ends can justify the means.

In the Beginning...

Dearly beloved...we are gathered here today to get through this thing called photography...

Ironically enough, I seem to recall that around 7 years ago when I started my first blog, Life in the Mind of a Modest Genius, that I used the exact same title of the first entry as I used here.  Or maybe not irony as much as it is borderline laziness.  But hey...I'm doing this past midnight and a brotha is tired.

Anyway, the point of this is just to provide a brief backstory on the rebranding.  And I really do mean brief

Basically, I just came to the conclusion that after researching other successful photog's business modes, they all had one thing in common:  Their name was attached to their work.  Their actual name. 

Not to mention the fact that I'm getting older and have to think about my legacy.  Who will know who XL-Images was years from now if they look at a photo with the logo?  At least with Fleming Photos, our family name is there so legacy problem solved.

So that's it for now.  More to come later with different posts on future work, present work, previous work, etc.  Thanks for stopping by and make sure to contact us for you photography needs!